Thursday, January 7, 2010

1968 Indonesia's President

Suharto (8 June 1921 – 27 January 2008) was the second President of Indonesia. He held the office from 1967 following Sukarno's removal up to his resignation in 1998.

Suharto was born in a small village near Yogyakarta, during the Dutch colonial controera. His Javanese peasant parents divorced not long after his birth, and for much of his childhood he was passed between foster parents. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Suharto served in Japanese-organised Indonesian security forces. During Indonesia's independence struggle, he joined the newly-formed Indonesian army. Following Indonesian independence, Suharto rose to the rank of Major General. An attempted coup on 30 September 1965 was countered by Suharto-led troops, was blamed on the Indonesian Communist Party. An army led anti-communist purge, killed over half a million people, and Suharto wrested power from Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno. He was appointed acting president in 1967 and President the following year. Support for Suharto's presidency eroded following the hardship of 1997–98 Asian financial crisis. He was forced to resign from the presidency in May 1998 and he died in 2008.

The legacy of Suharto's 32-year rule is debated both in Indonesia and abroad. Under his "New Order" administration, Suharto constructed a strong, centralised and military-dominated government. An ability to maintain stability over a sprawling and diverse Indonesia and an avowedly anti-Communist stance won him the economic and diplomatic support of the West during the Cold War. For most of his presidency, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialisation, dramatically improving health, education and living standards. Indonesia's 24-year occupation of East Timor during Suharto's presidency, resulted in at least 100,000 deaths. By the 1990s, the New Order's authoritarianism and widespread corruption was a source of discontent. In the years since his presidency, attempts to try him on charges of corruption and genocide failed because of his poor health.

Like many Javanese, Suharto had only one name. In religious contexts, he is sometimes called “Haji” or “el-Haj Mohammed Suharto”, but this Islamic title is not part of his formal name or generally used. The spelling "Suharto" reflects current Indonesian spelling, but people's names were always exempt from this. The English-language press generally uses the spelling 'Suharto', but Suharto and his family, as well as the Indonesian government and media, use 'Soeharto'.

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